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The Editor. November 23, 2011

Letter from the Editor

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The term “Arab Spring” has always felt ominous to me. After all, we all know what happened after the short-lived Prague Spring of 1968, which was brutally squashed. As I write this, we read that more than 32 people have been killed in clashes in Cairo’s Tahir Square. Thousands have been arrested. Amnesty is reporting that people in Egypt who dare to express themselves are being arrested and tried in military courts.

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Post image for From Monitoring to Building: Questions for South African Peace-Worker Jasmin Nordien

Arseh Sevom spoke with South African activist Jasmin Nordien about her experiences working in civil society organizations. In this post, we focus on her experiences throughout the 1980s, when she worked with the Network of Independent Monitors reporting on state violence and supporting individuals and grassroots organizations. Jasmin shares some of the lessons she learned about the importance of creating networked organizations, the differences between leadership and management, and the need for clarity of purpose. Jasmin tells us, “The one thing I learned after working at NIM was that I no longer wanted to monitor. I wanted to build the kind of society that my children and grandchildren would group up in.”

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The Editor. November 22, 2011

A Rebellion of Civil Society

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In this interview, Arturo Desimone talks to Tunisian student activist Ghassen Athmni. They discuss the democratic future of Tunisia, non-violence, Islamism, and the (then) coming elections. Athmni states, “This is not a revolution born out of pacifist ideology like the ones you associate pacifism with. There is no moral value of non-violence or ending the evil of all wars. The “bloodless” or “non-violent” character of our revolution is more embedded in the North African and Carthaginian cultures. North Africans do not see viability in violence as a road to power, we always prefer to circumvent violence, we walk around it whenever we can to find a better, more silent way.”

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Post image for A letter from an Arab woman to her Iranian friend

In this text given as a speech at The twenty second international conference of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation (IWSF), Amal Hamidallah-van Hees addresses the fears and hopes of Arab and Islamic women watching the changes in their region. “We are watching with our eyes wide open,” she writes, noting that many lessons were learned by the revolution in Iran. She urges women to engage with politics and Islam. “We will claim our space, even the religious one.”

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The Editor. November 22, 2011

How to Organize a Community

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In this piece, activist Lissnup gives some pointers on building a neighborhood organization. A good issue, the author tells us, will “be a real improvement in people’s lives; be non-divisive, and develop a sense of power for the group.”

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The Editor. November 22, 2011

Rock the Casbah

Rock the Casbah

Davi Baker, who blogs for the San Francisco Examiner as the SF Muslim, goes back to the ninth century to speculate on the roots of change in the Arab world. In the work of scholar Patricia Crone, he uncovers political thinkers speculating on the best way to organize society without a caliphate. Consensus, participation, violent overthrow, acquiescence, or anarchy? Baker writes, “Essentially they argued that the Caliph must be agreed upon by the entire community, either unanimously or by consensus, and without this no legitimate Caliph could exist. It was widely accepted that Allah did not impose obligations which were impossible to fulfill, so it was reasoned that there was no obligation to establish a legitimate Caliph.”

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The Editor. November 19, 2011

“One Has to Do All One Can for Human Rights”

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Antonia Bertschinger tells us of her work at the Swiss section of Amnesty International. She tells us how she came to be involved with human rights work. Bertschinger came to the work via her interest in Afghanistan. She studied Persian in university and worked in the Kabul Museum in Switzerland. “I loved working there because it helped me learn so much about Afghanistan. This did some awareness raising for me to learn what it’s like to live in a country where all the rights are violated, especially women’s rights, and which had such a long war, and so many other disasters. She ended up working in the Foreign Ministry in Iran rather than win Afghanistan, however. It was there that she met so many people working to build a better society and for the protection of human rights. Bertschinger asks of her own home in Europe, “How can we ever forget that human rights and the rule of law are the basis of our good life?”

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The Editor. November 19, 2011

The Accidental Leader Questions for Amsterdam50

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Eric Asp, pastor at Amsterdam50, discusses the struggles of unexpected leadership in the answers to questions from Arseh Sevom. ” When the founder of the project first left, I was asked, together with another young leader from the church, to step into the role of Pastor-In-Training (learning on the job). We really felt like just a couple of hacks, figuring things out as we went along (which has since become a strong part of our organization’s identity). We got a lot of support from others…”

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Post image for “Are we capable of managing the diversity we have?”: Human Rights in the MENA Region

Rania F is a Lebanese human rights defender working in Jordan with IKV Pax Christi. Rania spoke to Arseh Sevom about her experiences working in the region. She spoke about human rights, the changes in the Arab region, women’s rights, militarization, and minorities. “There is a lot of fear in our region,” she stated. “We [...]

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Post image for Fighting for Women’s Rights: An Interview with Mahnaz Afkhami

Hooman Askary reports on his discussion with the former minister of women’s affairs in pre-revolution Iran, Mahnaz Afkhami. She links the century long struggle of Iranian women for equal protection under the law to the demonstrations that emerged in 2009 after the flawed presidential elections in Iran. Afkhami states, “The green movement in Iran is [...]

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